By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – It doesn't matter how many soldiers the 1st Cavalry Division loses in a month, a loss is a loss.
"It'll only matter when it's zero," said Col. Larry Phelps, the division's rear commander.
The division hosted a memorial ceremony on Thursday, honoring Spc. Jason E. Dore and Staff Sgt. James L. Pope.
The monthly ceremonies memorialize soldiers who died in the previous month while deployed to Iraq. Since January, those numbers have ranged from 12 in April to 25 in May.
But Staff Sgt. Chad Pettit said that small memorials like Thursday's make it even more difficult because the impact of those lost can be felt even more. Pettit gave a eulogy for Dore. It can be easier to deal with larger numbers of casualties, Pettit said, and with two, it's harder.
Command Sgt. Maj. Philip F. Johndrow said the number of division casualties is decreasing because forces are stabilizing and securing areas they moved into as a result of the troop surge.
Johndrow, the division's senior noncommissioned officer, was on leave from Iraq and attended the memorial ceremony. In the beginning of the surge, soldiers were going into areas they had never been before. Many of these areas were safe havens for terrorists and "very much dangerous," Johndrow said. As the troops have achieved more security and control, the number of casualties has decreased.
People get great value from the memorial ceremonies and remembering what these fallen soldiers did, Phelps said. Their names are added to the ranks of heroes and then others can draw from their examples, he added.
Dore and Pope were two unique and heroic soldiers, Phelps said during the memorial. However, they share something very special and very important. They both had a love of their country and an understanding of the high price of freedom, he said.
Dore grew up in a patriotic family. He father, two great uncles, two uncles and an aunt all retired from military service. Two of his cousins currently serve and another was medically discharged after being seriously injured in Iraq. The 25-year-old enlisted in October 2005 as a fire support specialist. Given that he was 6 feet, 3 inches tall, 240 pounds and mature for his age, Dore was a natural leader. Dore would sing every time his vehicle rolled out of the base gates in Iraq, Pettit said. The soldiers could hear his voice as the vehicle drove down the road.
Pettit said Dore was an inspiration to him almost to a divine level because of his attitude and writing. Pettit read things Dore wrote on blogs and his MySpace page and became enthralled. It almost felt like they were best friends after reading his writing, Pettit said.
The staff sergeant said he was ashamed because he didn't think he would ever be capable of such conviction.
Dore's favorite quote came from William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar":
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
Dore died July 8 while serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
Pope also grew up in a military family and moved around while he was growing up. He followed his father into military service after graduating from high school. He deployed with the 1st Cavalry to Sadr City in 2004-05.
The most important thing in Pope's life was his family, said Sgt. Daniel Whitehead. His wife, Kimberley, was the love of his life and they had three children: Timothy, Jacob and Elizabeth.
Pope was one of the happiest people Whitehead knew and he had a passion for hunting and fishing. He knew all the fishing spots in the area, Whitehead said.
Pope had a strong work ethic and there was no machine he couldn't fix.
He was willing to help anybody and if ever asked how he could accomplish something, would rely, "I got people."
"The way he lived his life ensured he did have people," Whitehead said.
Pope died July 29 while serving with Foxtrot Company, 115th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team. He was 28 years old.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7547